The following is a guest post by Paul Capel, Supervisory Records Management Section Head.
The United States Copyright Office holds the most comprehensive collection of copyright records in the world. The Office has over 200,000 boxes of deposit copies spread among three storage facilities in Landover, Maryland; a contracted space in Pennsylvania; and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility in Massachusetts. Even with these three warehouses, that’s not enough space. Each day, the Office receives new deposits, and despite the increase in electronic deposits, our physical deposits continue to grow year after year.
These deposits are managed by the Deposit Copies Storage Unit, a dedicated team that springs into action to retrieve deposits when requested by examiners or researchers or for litigation cases. In this type of work, speed and efficiency of retrieval are critical. Managing deposits across three storage locations can present a challenge to our ideal retrieval times. When our records are stored in several locations, the potential for miscommunication or misplaced deposits increases.
This October, the Office will be opening a new 40,000 square foot warehouse that has been in discussion for over twenty-five years. We will be moving our deposits out of facilities that are more than forty years old to centrally locate them in a new state-of-the-art facility. This is a huge undertaking, and we are aiming to move 88,000 boxes from Landover in under 45 days. The new space is environmentally controlled and meets preservation requirements for the storage of federal records. Even more importantly, the new facility will allow the Office to maintain control over all our records in a single location, which will improve our retrieval times and will enable us to serve our stakeholders better.
This new facility is a great start, but we have an even bigger vision for our deposits. To truly inventory and track our deposits, the Office is investigating a warehouse management system that will help staff inventory, track, locate, and manage all the items in our warehouse. This type of system will help the Office enhance the availability and accessibility of materials, decreasing manual processing, and allowing for real-time tracking of deposits at any given time. It will also let us know who has them and when their period of retention ends.
This system will provide all the notifications expected from any modern delivery service. Copyright Office staff will be able to obtain a copy of their order and tell when it is in transit, know when it has been delivered, and sign for it digitally. This system will also provide transparency to others who might have an interest in requesting the same deposit, to see where it currently is, who has it, and how long they have had it.
This is a huge step forward in the Office’s modernization efforts, and could not have been accomplished without the support of teams across the Office and the Library. A special thank-you goes out to the Librarian of Congress; Architect of the Capitol; Copyright Office senior leadership; Library of Congress divisions: Integrated Support Services, Preservation, and Safety; and many other talented subject-matter experts who have contributed to the success of this project. Many people worked tirelessly to make this become a reality.
Our Records Management team looks forward to integration with the Enterprise Copyright System (ECS) and all of its components to have all that information cohesively displayed in a central place so that we don’t have multiple systems. We want this to work for everybody, and everybody truly is a crucial part. Everyone at the Copyright Office, at one time or another, may end up using the warehouse application, and we want the process to be simple, efficient, and informative.